Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Music Box: Shalamar

Ever since he was a kid growing up on Long Island, Michael has had a thing for R&B music. Like most of his peers, he also loved Led Zeppelin, AC/DC and Boston, but when Saturday morning rolled around his somewhat dumbfounded friends and family would find him glued to the TV watching "Soul Train," easily one of his favorite shows around. While "Soul Train" played from the get-go in my native Detroit too, I typically watched "American Bandstand" and then lost interest once the hippest trip in America rolled into my living room, unless a really big name like Aretha or Gladys was going to be on. So when VH1 aired a documentary over the weekend about "Soul Train" -- mainly focuses on its legendary host and producer Don Cornelius -- I got a real kick out of watching it with Michael (well, more like watching Michael watch it) as he seemed to be re-living a really special part of his youth. (I was so into it, in fact, that I was ready to start a Soul Train Line only Larry wouldn't cooperate.)

I learned a lot watching it, most notably that two of the members of the great Shalamar -- Jody Watley and Jeffrey Daniel -- were both dancers on the show who were plucked by "Soul Train" talent booker/record promoter Dick Griffey and talent coordinator Chuck Johnson to replace the group's original session singers in 1977. (Jody modestly says that she and Jeffrey were picked because they were "the most popular dancers on the show," admitting that when they came back to perform as Shalamar there was tension and jealousy on the set.
Having not known about the origins of Shalamar -- who I really first remember falling in love with during their '80s New Wave/synth period (my friend Greg and I were mesmerized by the "Dead Giveaway" video) -- I was also surprised to discover that the late '70s pop/R&B classic "The Second Time Around" was actually the trio at the height of its popularity. They scored another hit in '84 with "Dancing in the Sheets" after the two dancers had left the group, but you just can't beat the "classic lineup," with singer Howard Hewitt's smooth vocals, Jody Watley's cool style and Jeffrey Daniel's incredible body-popping and moonwalking. (Did you know Daniels taught Michael Jackson these moves and even choreographed some of his videos? I didn't.) Chalk it to up to yet another valuable lesson learned during Black History Month.

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Writer said...

I love Second Time Around! Thank you for this awesome post!

Joe said...

You know I always wondered why in the world Jody was part of Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas". Upon further research, spurred by your excellent post Kenneth, it appears that Shalamar was much, much bigger in the UK than here in the states. After Jody split from the group she was trying to find her way into really launching her solo career. She cut a couple 12" singles in the UK, but it wasn't until 1987 when she blew up with the stellar Jody Watley.
On a side note, I caught Jody live during her "Larger Than Life" tour ('89 or '90). It really was a great show.
Thanks for the great post Kenneth!

nojarama said...

You can't even think of "Soul Train" and not think of Shalamar. I, too, spent many a Saturday entranced by the show. It was wonderful. And Shalamar was too ( I was very disappointed when Jody & Jeremy left, but Jody made up for it with fantastic solo career)! "Second Time Around", "Take That To The Bank", and of course, "Dead Giveaway" still get massive play in i-tunes on my Mac. Good times!

Anonymous said...

The best part was at the end of each show Don would always say.

"You can bet your last money, it's all gonna be a stone gas honey. My name is Don Cornelius wishing you Love, Peace, and Soul!"

Anonymous said...

Thanks Kenneth for this post.
I love Shalamar! Especially the classic groove, "Night to Remember".

Here's the link in case you want to post.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Kenneth for this great post. I loved Soul Train! I used to learn all the latest dance moves and fashion sytles watching this show back in the day.